How to Become a Certified Legal Nurse Consultant
Learn how to become a certified legal nurse consultant. Research the education, training and licensure information, and experience required for starting a career in medical-legal consulting.
Do I Want to Be a Certified Legal Nurse Consultant?
Legal nurse consultants (LNCs) are registered nurses who provide medical counsel on legal matters. LNCs often review medical records and reports for cases that involve personal injury, negligence, workers' compensation, malpractice, or wrongful deaths. Besides reviewing cases, these professionals may also explain complex medical issues to clients. LNCs can also be called upon to act as expert witnesses.
Many registered nurses work full-time in hospitals and other medical care settings, such as rehabilitation centers, retirement homes, and 24-hour clinics. Those that additionally serve as legal nurse consultants may be employed by insurance companies or legal firms, and may be required to travel for particular cases and to courthouses, when called upon to testify. Nurses with frequent contact with patients may be exposed to infectious diseases. Many nurses work full-time, although schedules may include irregular, evening, night, or weekend hours; those who primarily serve as nursing consultants may enjoy a set schedule during regular business hours.
Training to become a registered nurse includes completing an undergraduate nursing program. Nurses must also pass exams to obtain licensure in the field. To become certified LNCs, nurses must meet training requirements and pass certification exams. The table below shows some of the major career qualifications necessary for becoming a certified LNC:
|Degree Level||Vocational diploma, associate degree or bachelor's degree/certificate*|
|Degree Field||Nursing/legal nurse consulting*|
|Licensure and Certification||State nursing license* and legal nurse consultant certification**|
|Experience||Five years of experience in general nursing, 2,000 hours of experience in legal nurse consulting for certification**|
|Key Skills||Able to care about patients, pay close attention to details, capable of staying organized and possess strong problem-solving skills*|
|Computer Skills||Familiar with medical records systems**|
|Technical Skills||Knowledge of medical-legal terminology** familiar with medical tools*|
|Additional Requirements||Comfortable testifying in court, as needed**|
Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), **The American Association of Legal Nurse Consultants (AALNC).
Step 1: Become a Registered Nurse
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there are three different kinds of nursing programs available. The two programs that can be completed in the shortest amount of time include the nursing diploma program or the associate degree program in nursing. It usually takes at least four years to complete a bachelor's degree program in nursing.
Common courses in nursing programs include medical terminology, human anatomy, psychology, human physiology, nutrition and chemistry, per the BLS. Students may complete clinical sessions in various medical departments, such as pediatrics, oncology, surgery or the emergency room. Some students may also participate in clinical sessions outside of hospitals, including at elderly-care facilities, community clinics and public health departments.
Step 2: Gain Licensure
After graduating from a nursing program, individuals must complete licensing procedures in accordance with state laws. Information from the BLS shows that individuals must pass the National Council Licensure Examination for registered nurses (NCLEX-RN). Besides passing the NCLEX-RN, some states may have additional licensing requirements that registered nurses must meet.
Step 3: Gain Nursing Experience
Prior to becoming a certified LNC, the American Association of Legal Nurse Consultants (AALNC) shows that applicants must have experience in clinical nursing. According to the BLS, newly licensed registered nurses often start off as staff nurses at hospitals. Registered nurses can also work for doctors' offices, home health-care services or for the government.
- Choose a field specialty. By choosing to specialize, nurses will become extremely familiar with the particular needs of various patient populations. Specific field knowledge may also prove useful with becoming a certified LNC, especially if clients are looking for consultants with a particular nursing background.
Step 4: Complete a Legal Nurse Consultant Training Program
Individuals can complete legal nurse consultant training courses or certificate programs. Most programs will only accept registered nurses, since students need a clinical nursing background to understand key course materials. Topics covered include medical records review and analysis, legal terminology, forensic nursing, workers' compensation investigations and trial preparation. Students may also learn about the practical side of becoming an LNC, such as how to find clients and marketing LNC services.
- Complete an internship. Some legal nurse consulting certificate programs offer internship opportunities. Student interns spend a specific amount of hours working with experienced LNCs or attorneys. During internships, students gain a better understanding of reviewing medical documents for trials. Students also learn about the relationships between LNCs and clients, which is helpful for finding later employment.
Step 5: Become Certified
Certification is not required for registered nurses to work as LNCs. Nevertheless, the AALNC recommends that registered nurses seek out certification to demonstrate their training and skills. The AALNC requires certification applicants to show proof that they have completed at least 2,000 hours of LNC services during the past five years and pass an exam. Topics on the exam may include elder law, personal injury, risk management, medical malpractice and workers' compensation laws.
- Maintain licenses and certification. Nursing license renewal requirements vary per state, but many states require that registered nurses complete professional development or continuing education coursework. According to the AALNC, there are two options for LNC certification renewal. Every five years, applicants can either complete 60 units of continuing education coursework or they can retake certification exams.
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